We all want to raise children that can navigate their emotions successfully in life right? I call this emotional autonomy. The feeling or sense of being in charge of our thoughts and emotions instead of our thoughts and emotions being in charge of us. For me, I feel that if my children are equipped with the basis of understanding their own emotions and the emotions of others from a place of depth and insight, this will drastically improve the chances for success in relationships and their own personal endeavors. Of course there is only so much we can do as parents to facilitate that outcome, much of our children’s growth (just like ours) comes from their own trial and errors along the way, but we can consciously instill successful internal habits that can set the stage for health and wellness.
Here are my 5 top tips for parents eager to teach their children skills to thrive emotionally.
1. Internal Guidance System. We have our own internal guidance system. We can access this guidance system by learning how to trust our intuition, our feelings about things. We live in a society where intuition is a human characteristic less valued that intellect. We thrive on the intellectualization of things, and yet, lying right under the surface is the source of all wisdom in our lives; our inner voice. I know from my own experience, trusting my instinct has always drawn me into situations that honored my expansion as a person. It is my desire to teach my children to rely on this voice as it is my belief that it is this voice that will always deliver you the situations (both good and bad) that serve your highest good. It also has the side benefit of teaching empathy. As we expand our understanding of our own emotions we also more easily understand the emotions of others.
To guide my children toward trusting their inner compass, I get curious and I ask questions and I help them put words on their feelings. This works great for kids old enough to process emotions and can be used throughout the child’s life! I ask questions like:
What do you think you should do?
What could you have done differently?
How did that make you feel?
How do you rather feel?
How do you think that person feels?
What do you need right now?
If you knew just what to do, what would you do [to solve a situation]?
What questions could you add to this list?
2. All behavior, and thus all results in life, are rooted in thought. This is something we talk a lot about. When my kids are not getting along for instance, I usually ask my daughter for example what she is thinking. Usually it is “my brother is so annoying!!!” I then challenge her to think a new thought, for example “My brother is annoying, but he is just little and that is how little kids are…loud!” I have her try on the new thought and then notice how her behavior and the results she experience shift. She is able to clearly see how her thoughts are the roots of what she experiences in her life and she has the power to guide and alter this simply by changing her thoughts. If your child has trouble understanding this, model this idea with your own example. Make it easy and simple for them to understand. You could say for example: “If Mamma thinks it is boring and not fun to make dinner, most likely dinner will either be late on the table or taste yucky – or maybe even both! But if Mamma enjoys cooking dinner and has fun doing it, most likely dinner will be yummy and everyone will have a cozy time at the table…”
3. Energy Infects. This is an extension of our second point above. I teach my children how not only can thought impact our behavior and the results that we experience in our life, but that thought actually infects other people. This is based on the idea that our thoughts are really just vibrating energy. The more positive the thoughts, the higher the vibration, the more negative thoughts, the lower the vibration. We experiment a lot with changing our thoughts and then seeing the impact of that shift on other people. Let’s take the example of my daughter and her “annoying brother”. When she is able to take responsibility of her thoughts and change her attitude (as my kids call it) it literally changes her brother’s behavior. He miraculously becomes less annoying!! Play with this idea with your children and show them the infectious power of thought!
4. Feeling Your Feelings. We live in a society where feeling our feelings is just not encouraged. Boys are taught to man up and girls are told that feeling emotional and showing that emotion is a sign of weakness and something to be ashamed of. But our feelings are meant to be felt!!!! We fear feeling negative emotion because of our fear of feeling pain. But fear, anxiety and worry only grow into monsters if we don’t take time to feel them. My daughter, like many pre-teens, experiences waves of anxiety that can get in the way of her day. I teach her that spending time (usually at night together with me) really feeling her feelings, allowing the emotions of the day to wash over her, experiencing them (without engagement) and then letting them go, liberates her from carrying these emotions into the next day and the next.
Make space during the day to BE WITH your child and explore the emotions of the day. Do not shy away from their BIG emotions, do not get engaged in them either, but sit quietly while they explore them – be their safe space to fall.
5. You don’t have to believe every thought that you think. This was probably one of the biggest and most profound ideas I have yet to teach my kids. They have choice in what they think. Our brains are not truth telling machines, they are sensory processing organs! They are not meant to tell us the truth but to process information from our environment. It is our inner voice that is designed to tell us the truth, to guide us to the “right” answer in any moment.
Teaching my children to question their thoughts allows them to be in the driver’s seat of their minds, not the victim of any passing thought. If your child is stuck in a perspective or thought process that seems to be dragging them down, simply ask them “Is that true? Is that really, really, really, beyond a shadow of a doubt true?” Allow them to contemplate this. If they are able to answer that question that is great, but don’t search or require them to answer, the seed of inner reflection is planted! This connects them to their inner voice and their Truth in any moment.
NOTE: These are life skills that are best taught by LIVING them. Spend time contemplating each one in your own life, adopting the ideas to your own life circumstance. By living these ideas, they organically become a part of your family’s language. Commit today to being living your own emotionally autonomous life and teaching your children to do the same.
If you would like to explore ways to create more emotional autonomy in your life, sign up for a FREE 30 minute consultation with me or sign up for my signature online coaching program, the Mommy Meltdown Cure where you will learn how to experience and model emotional autonomy by learning 8 easy to use life skills!
I would LOVE to hear your thoughts, ideas and experiences with these concepts! Comment below!